Virginia has removed from its iconic state capitol the busts and a statue honoring Confederate generals and officials. That includes a bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. (July 24)
Confederate monuments are being removed at a rapidly increased pace since George Floyd’s death, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The updated “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy” report released Tuesday found 38 monuments had been removed in the less than three months since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
That’s nearly as many removals as reported in the three years following the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting. At that time, the organization reported 48 monuments had been removed between June 2015 and early 2019.
The accelerated removal of statues has been fueled by widespread protests against systemic racism and police brutality following Floyd’s death, with more people linking Confederate monuments with white supremacy, according to Lecia Brooks, SPLC chief of staff.
In Richmond, Virginia, for example, multiple monuments owned by the city were removed after a statue of Jefferson Davis was torn down by protesters.
Brooks called it a “reckoning” and said the swift removal of so many statues speaks to what is possible to accomplish in a short amount of time. “I think it’s incredible … (it) really speaks to this moment we’re in.”
The updated number include statues felled by protesters in addition to ones removed by authorities, Brooks said.
Even so, most Confederate monuments in public spaces remain, according to SPLC. There are 725 monuments still standing, a decrease of about 5% since Floyd’s death.
Statues of prominent figures in the Confederacy are a common sight in the South.
Like other symbols of the Confederacy, such memorials have been defended for generations as pieces of Southern heritage, or simply uncontroversial artifacts of history. But for many people, they are ever-present reminders of racial discrimination and violent oppression that has never gone away.
“Our public entities should no longer play a role in distorting history by honoring a secessionist government that waged war against the United States to preserve white supremacy and the enslavement of millions of people,” SPLC wrote in its 2019 update to the “Whose Heritage?” report.
Confederate monuments aren’t the only symbols that have been removed in recent months. The update counted eight schools that have been renamed, two roads that were renamed and one state flag that was changed.
In total, the report found 40 symbols had been removed and 14 entities had been renamed since Floyd’s death.
Efforts to remove Confederate symbols are ongoing. This week, a Virginia city council voted to remove a monument which honors a Confederate infantry unit and has stood in the city for more than a century.
In addition to increased efforts to remove Confederate symbols, protesters and activists have also targeted statues of other historical figures, particularly Christopher Columbus, as symbols of white supremacy.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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